New York City, with every kind of restaurant imaginable, is a food lover’s paradise. It is one of my favorite cities and I’ve had the good fortune to have visited there four times in the past year and a half, including a trip last week. I always go armed with a long list of restaurants to try, culled from various sources such as Cooking Channel’s Unique Eats and Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate as well as websites such as Serious Eats and Eater NY. For this trip, my list included some new-to-me spots like The Mile End Deli in Brooklyn, The Breslin Bar and Dining Room, Sweet Revenge, and any one of Eataly‘s eateries, as well as old standbys Ippudo NY and Shake Shack. I made it to all of the restaurants on my list, discovering many wonderful new dishes and enjoying some old favorites. Although it was hard to narrow it down, I wanted to share with you the top 6 dishes I enjoyed this week. Why 6? Well, because I just couldn’t get the list down to 5. So here they are, in reverse order:
#6 – Foie Gras Tartine with Fig Jam at The Tartinery NYC
Tartinery in NoLIta is a chic and elegant take on the French bistro concept and the perfect respite to the hustle and bustle of Mulberry Street. As its name implies, the restaurant specializes in tartines – French open-faced sandwiches. The two-story space houses a café and bar upstairs and a spacious dining room downstairs that is anchored by a giant ficus tree in the center. The interior is gorgeous, with beautiful exposed brick covered with a metal grid, high ceilings and big windows to let in the light. The seasonal menu is simple , healthy, and authentic. The restaurant imports their bread from well-knowned French bakery, Poîlane, as the base for their tartines. Of the 15 or so varieties, I opted for the luscious duck foie gras. Sprinkled with sea salt and served with fig jam, this tartine is the perfect combination of salty and sweet. The fig jam perfectly cut the richness of the generous amount of silky smooth and indulgent foie gras.
#5 – Akamaru Modern Ramen at Ippudo NY
Located in the East Village, Ippudo NY, is a modern Japanese ramen noodle brasserie. It is a dark, loud and raucous place that serves the best ramen I’ve ever had, the Akamaru Modern. Ippudo quickly became one of our first stops when we arrive in the city, and, in my mind, this signature red bowl, containing some hot, deeply satisfying noodles and broth has become synonymous with New York City. It is made with a rich tonkatsu (pork) broth and topped with a red miso paste, pork chasu, cabbage, kikurage mushrooms, scallions, and drizzled with a dark and flavorful garlic oil. The nitamago, or soft-boiled egg, is silky smooth with a runny yolk and is the perfect topping in this ramen. Warning: Finishing a bowl of Akamaru Modern will definitely put you in what we lovingly call a “ramen stupor.”
#4 – Pulled Duroc Pork Sandwich with Spicy Honey at NumPang Sandwich Shop
Num Pang is the Cambodian word for “sandwich” and the name of this tiny two-story shop near Union Square (there is another location Midtown, as well). Similar to the Vietnamese banh mi, all the gourmet sandwiches here are served on crusty bread and with thinly-sliced cucumbers, shredded pickled carrots, cilantro and housemade chili mayo. Num Pang uses high-quality ingredients like the fresh baked semolina flour baguettes from New York institution, Parisi Bakery, and well-marbled premium Duroc pork, known as the “black angus” of pork. This pulled pork sandwich is the perfect balance of crisp pickled vegetables and slightly sweet, moist pulled pork. The drizzle of honey accentuates the deep pork flavor and the somewhat spicy mayo gives the sandwich some zing.
#3 – Tongue Sandwich with Borscht at The Breslin Bar and Dining Room
The Breslin Bar and Dining Room is a gastropub with dark wooden walls, cracked ceilings, and butcher paper-lined tables located in the Ace Hotel. The chef, Englishwoman April Bloomfield, first introduced nose-to-tail pub food to New York City at her original restaurant, the Spotted Pig and continues it here at The Breslin. We came here for the Lamb Burger with Thrice-Cooked Fries, which was absolutely juicy and delicious, but it was the Tongue Sandwich with a bowl of Borscht that stole the show! I know organ meats are not everyone’s cup of tea, but tongue is quite a tasty part of the cow. (Growing up, one of my favorite dishes was my Mom’s version of braised beef tongue so I do have a lot of experience eating it.) This sandwich is taken off the menu during the summer months but reappeared the day before our visit. Lucky for us!! The tongue is braised until completely tender and then it is garnished with horseradish for a little kick! Bloomfield then takes the intense and flavorful braising liquid and uses it to make the Borscht.
#2 – Hirata Pork Bun at Ippudo NY
As a prelude to the rich Akamaru Modern (#5) ramen, this steamed pork bun at Ippudo is insanely good. The bun is thick, yet soft, light, and fluffly, and filled with a thick slab of tender and buttery pork belly slathered in an Asian barbecue sauce of sorts, a tangy and spicy “special sauce” and Japanese mayo. It is such a simple and satisfying dish. My mouth is watering as I type this description, longing for one more bite.
#1 – Peanut Butter Cupcake at Sweet Revenge®
In a city overrun by the cupcake craze started by Magnolia Bakery’s appearance in Sex and the City, Sweet Revenge® cleverly raises the bar by pairing them with beer and wine. Housed in a tiny storefront on Carmine Street in the West Village, Sweet Revenge® is the brainchild of Marlo Scott, who vowed to take her “sweet revenge” after being laid off as a director at a media company. Luckily for us, she capitalized on her misfortune and turned her attentions to making these beautiful, edgy, grown-up cupcakes with their signature icing reminiscent of a mohawk. This is not the place for cutesy little cupcakes in pastel-colored liners. These cupcakes are baked in individual sheets of parchment paper placed in the tins so that they resemble tulips. The menu features four signature cupcakes that are always available and two more that rotate from a list of artisan flavors. The menu also suggests both a wine and beer pairing for each cupcake. The namesake, Sweet Revenge, is a peanut butter cupcake filled with a dark chocolate ganache and a peanut butter fudge frosting. You might think it is a bit of peanut butter overload, but, trust me, it was not cloying or overly sweet! The cupcake was moist and had a great texture. Instead of the recommended beer or wine pairing for this rich, decadent peanut butter cupcake, I opted for an ice cold glass of milk.